My Christmas Story
Please open your mind.
Whatever your beliefs are about Christmas, people who celebrate Christmas, and people who aren’t even Christians yet blog about shopping for Christmas gifts, hold that thought, take a deep breath, and read My Christmas Story . . .
The beautiful tree above, and the gifts under it, are for the "turtles:" youth who have aged out of the foster care system (at 18 they’re booted out) and are fortunate enough to be cared for by the amazing people at Turtle Nest Village. The majority of them have never received a Christmas gift, decorated a tree, or had Christmas carols sung to them (the kids from the School of the Arts stand on the steps of the spiral staircase and sing for them). They certainly have never attended a Christmas party at a castle, in their honor.
Though the turtles are touched, and some overwhelmed, the board of directors and donors who attend the event, in my experience, are the ones so touched as to be called devastated. To see a young person who was left at a 7-11 by his mother when he was a toddler (with nothing but the clothes on his back) and was shuttled to over a dozen foster homes by age 18, and who came to Turtle Nest functionally illiterate (yet with a high school diploma), learn to read and write, learn how to be an employee, learn how to save money, learn how to have healthy relationships and release anger and resentfulness, and get a job (with benefits an a 401k), buy a car, find an apartment and fall in love, all within three years . . . . is, dare I say, a miracle.
But not a miracle from "above." A miracle of human love. A miracle of a community that has come together and said, "It’s not okay that we do this to our kids."
Foster kids are abandoned twice. First by their parents, an then by the system designed to raise them.
Should the organization, which teaches the youth about the many stories people believe in regarding a god or even nature as divine, not hold a Christmas celebration? (And before you say anything, everything–everything–is donated. Nothing comes out of the budget of the organization.) If you were at the castle and saw the serenity and gratitude of young people whose childhoods you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, I think you just might find it in you to be merry about Christmas just once.
To make matters even more touching, the turtles got together and wrote a poem for the staff, board and donors. And each one wrote a thank you letter for a board member. And they pooled their own money to buy a gift for each board member: a crystal keepsake thanking us for our service to them and to Turtle Nest Village.
Wherever you are, whatever your thoughts are about Christmas, remember that tremendous joy can come from the day, and from the idea of Christmas . . . if you let it.